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News : Irish Economy Last Updated: Jan 23, 2015 - 10:17 AM

Burton pushes EU Youth Guarantee; Irish apprenticeship system a shambles
By Michael Hennigan, editor and founder of Finfacts
Feb 28, 2013 - 5:31 AM

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Source: ILO

Joan Burton, minister for social protection, will chair a meeting of European social ministers today as part of the Irish EU presidency, at which the EU Youth Guarantee will be discussed. Under such a guarantee, a young person aged 15-24 would be guaranteed a job or education place within a set number of months of becoming unemployed. However while this is an important issue, the existing apprenticeship system in Ireland is a shambles.

In countries with high proportions of young (under 25 years of age) apprentices relative to the employed population - - Austria, Germany and Switzerland - - youth unemployment is currently much lower than other countries. So while this is a time when Irish State funds are generally plentiful for research, the Irish youth unemployment rate was at 30% (excluding those in education; see chart of youth unemployment) in December and Ireland has the worst participation in apprenticeship schemes in Europe. It also restricts activity to traditional crafts and few females are involved. Most countries include business services such as ICT and there is significant female participation.

In 2007 some 1,600,000 young people were in apprenticeship in Germany; 40 apprentices for every 1000 employed persons.

In 2008 some 23,000 young people were in apprenticeship in Ireland (30,000 in 2006); 11 apprentices for every 1,000 employed persons.  However, a review (OECD 2010) found that employer involvement at FÁS (a discredited public agency that is being rebranded) regional and local levels was insufficient. While FÁS claimed lack of employer interest at local level, employers felt that FÁS regional offices made arbitrary decisions on the funding of training (including apprenticeship) and were not sufficiently responsive to the range of needs in a region.

In November 2012, the  International Labour Organization published a report on apprenticeship for the G-20 (Group of Twenty leading developed and emerging nations). The report says both France and England have around 5 per cent of 16-24 year olds in apprenticeship and have made strenuous efforts to expand numbers. Currently, however, places offered by employers are not sufficient to meet the huge demand from young people or to have much impact on youth unemployment in these countries  -- the unemployment rate was around 20% for 15-24 year olds in both countries and higher still in European countries without apprenticeship provision.

ILO apprenticeship issues [pdf]

London School of Economics: Centre for Economic Performance Apprenticeship report [pdf]

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